I’ve been cooking dinner more than usual, lately. This is partly to save money (eating out a lot can add up), but also because I have a lighter schedule, so there’s a bit more time to shop for ingredients and make the dishes.
There have been 2 principally new sources for recipes: one is the H‑Mart (the very nice Korean Supermarket) on Robson, which has all sorts of ingredients and even a few convenience foods (mixes, frozen food) that let me attempt a few unfamiliar Asian dishes. Yesterday I tried a Korean mix, that is essentially a flour and water pancake that you add vegetables and meat or seafood to. It turned out extremely well, but I didn’t know what sauce I should serve with it (it needed a little drizzle of something), so after checking a few sources (including the always helpful people at the Asian Foods stall at Granville Market), I couldn’t find any ‘traditional’ sauce for it. I ended up using ‘fruit sauce’, which is that tamarind-based sauce that you typically have on Tonkatsu, the wonderful fried chicken or pork cutlet that is Japan’s answer to Wiener schnitzel. We had the pancakes (wth a ton of vegetables and some Korean-style beef — marinated in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar) over rice and with stir-fried baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms on the side. I know that it was essentially a mishmash of Korean, Chinese and Japanese cuisines, but it seemed to turn out pretty well.
The second source of recipes has been a superb cooking show that we’ve been TiVO-ing from the Food Channel: French Food at Home, with Laura Calder. Laura’s recipes have been hitting it out of the park nearly every time. A month or so ago we tried some of her side dishes: a terrific baked grated potato cake (the russet potato shreds get tossed with cream, which seemed to have just enough fat to hold them together without sticking to the foil or getting greasy — the result is a light and crunchy potato pancake without frying!), and a bacon and brussel sprout leaf side dish that could even get people who dislike that vegetable to love it for the first time. A couple of days ago we tried her delicious cold swiss chard with toasted sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Tonight, I made her SautÃ©ed Chicken with fresh chopped rosemary and thyme and white wine. Once again, a good dish. Rarely have I had such a good hit rate with anybody’s recipes, much less a TV cook; Rachel Ray is fun, but with a few exceptions, her 30 Minute Meals are not always as tasty as they are fast. Jamie Oliver was the first Celebrity cook I ever watched regularly with a lot of gutsy Italian-style dishes, but the success rate with his recipes was kind of spotty.
With Granville Island’s public market within a short walk, access to lots of Asian foods, a good kitchen, and now a little extra time to procure and prepare, dinners have been a lot better than usual. Unfortunately, when I do find a new full-time job this extra time will go away, but it’s nice to enjoy it while I can, with a steadily growing repertoire of dishes.